This is a story about a little girl named Hu Mei.
• Hu Mei sounds like Who May and rhymes with "you may."
• You may like to skip like Hu Mei.
• You may have been afraid or sad like Hu Mei.
• You may know someone big or small, short or tall, old or young
that you feel afraid of when they are near you.
When you discover Hu Mei's 'shimmering secret,' you may wonder about your own thoughts and feelings. You may begin to understand that Hu Mei, and you, and I are all alike. Every one of us – big or small, short or tall, old or young – has the power of the 'shimmering secret ' inside to help guide us to our best lives.
Many centuries ago, a little girl named Hu Mei lived with her family in the tiny village of Chefoo. The village was nestled beside a bay in a big sea called the Yellow Sea. One day, an extraordinary butterfly found its way into Chefoo. Only when the butterfly floated very close to the village could it be seen. Its wings shimmered and looked as if they had been dipped in a bucket of blue from the sky on a perfect day.
There was only one road leading out of the village. It curved up a hill to a very big house made of large blocks chiseled out of stone. A sturdy stone fence with a heavy wooden gate went all the way around the house. Where the road made a curve, an ancient willow tree stood on the bank of a perfect little marsh. Delicate pink water lilies lined the edges around the marsh. The willow tree swayed in the breeze, waving a welcome to the new butterfly.
As the butterfly started toward the willow tree, it spotted Hu Mei skipping along the road going out of the village. Hu Mei skipped everywhere she went, little hiccups of glee pushing her up under her toes.
Every afternoon, it was Hu Mei’s job to gather twigs to start the cooking fire for supper.
All of a sudden, the butterfly brushed softly against her cheek. Hu Mei looked up with wonder and smiled. She followed the enchanting butterfly toward the marsh and watched it disappear into the willow tree as it glided through long, slender green leaves.
Hu Mei climbed onto a low, sagging branch of the giant tree. A soft current of air wove the willow’s leaves into a lacy green cocoon that hid all of Hu Mei. Only her tiny legs could be seen, dangling like empty swings in the breeze. Hu Mei forgot all about the twigs she was sent to gather. Her eyes danced along with the butterfly, playing peek-a-boo in and out of the branches.
Meanwhile, at the big house on the hill, the latch on the wooden gate clicked open. A tall boy with a frown scrunching up his face stepped out. His name was Wang Fu. He was always in a bad mood. When he was in a very, very bad mood, he would look for ways to be cruel to the village children. Searching for little ones who were alone, Wang Fu would sneak up behind them to scare them.
Today Wang Fu was marching down the road toward Chefoo when he looked toward the pond and spotted the extraordinary butterfly balanced on a tall reed near the water’s edge. Wang Fu stared at the unusual butterfly. He did not see little Hu Mei sitting in the willow tree nearby.
Suddenly, Wang Fu shouted, “I am going to take those wings to wear on my hat!” He waded into the pond to pluck the butterfly from where it rested. Hu Mei’s mouth made a big O, and she tried to cry out
“No!” A puff of whisper was all that came out, and Wang Fu did not hear it.
When Wang Fu crept up to snatch his prize, the butterfly spread its wings and tried to fly away. Wang Fu was startled and lost his balance just as his fingers began to curl around the fragile wings. The wings crumpled, and the butterfly fell slowly down as Wang Fu tumbled into the chilly water. A gentle breeze came and lifted the butterfly out of Wang Fu’s reach. It carried the wounded little creature over the water to a long willow leaf resting at the edge of the bank. Hidden under the willow tree’s cascade of long limbs, Hu Mei’s butterfly friend lay crippled and still.
Wang Fu rose up from the water sputtering and cursing. He looked around for the butterfly. Meanwhile, the willow’s branches wove together even tighter and hid Hu Mei and the butterfly from Wang Fu’s piercing eyes. Because he had very little patience and was wet and cold, Wang Fu quickly gave up his search. He trudged home in his soggy clothes, kicking at stones on the path and punching the air.
When she was certain that it was safe, Hu Mei slid quietly out of the tree. Using a long branch, she carefully pulled the willow leaf that held the motionless butterfly to the bank of the marsh. She cupped her tiny hands and gently lifted its limp body from the little green leaf raft. Heartbroken, Hu Mei turned toward the village and slowly walked home...